The great and the good of local football descended on Coleraine Football Club last Friday night to pay tribute to a true legend of the game.
This man is not a player or a manager, but an unsung hero as such.
For the past 40 years Hugh Wade has devoted his time, energy and money to the club he loves. He has finally decided to hang his boots up, but such was the warmth felt towards Hugh by the people he calls friends a special night was held to recognise his contribution.
Past managers who worked under Hugh such as Kenny Shiels, Marty Quinn and Billy Sinclair, were joined by former players like Pat McAllister, Jody Tolan, Dessie Dickson, Johnny McCurdy, Paul Gaston.
Close friends Roy Coyle, Adrian Teer and Jimmy Boyce were on hand to wish him a final farewell.
“I’ve met so many great people down the years and made a lot of friends,” said Hugh.
“Coleraine is my home town and where my heart lies. I have had such a great time here at Coleraine.
“I learnt everything from Jack Doherty. He brought me into the club along with Bertie Peacock. They approached me in 1974 when I became Secretary.
“We’ve had many great players at Coleraine down the years. One of the best was Felix Healy, the best striker was Dessie Dickson.
“The European game at Kilmarnock is legendary. I remeber standing in their board room at half time with the late Jack Doherty. Their chairman said to us the game was over and said you could see the difference full time training made.
“And Dessie ended up scoring a hat-trick in the second half to win us the game. He was the best striker in the league.
“Dessie also managed the side for another special European night when we played Spurs...that was a great occasion.”
As you can expect everybody only had good things to say about Hugh here’s a few snippets of the tributes paid to him.
“Hugh wasn’t the reason I came to Coleraine but he was the reason I signed.
“He is the only chairman out of all the teams I played for that I would sit in a room with now.
“Coleraine will always be in my heart and I will always come back to it.”
“We don’t forget where this club was at a few years ago, but people like Hugh and the rest of the committee fought hard to keep it going.
“I had a fantastic eight and a half years at this club and I’m very proud to have been manager of Coleraine.
“It’s a place I feel so welcome in. There’s something special about this place.”
“I was a lad from west Belfast who didn’t even really know where Coleraine was when I came here to sign.
“But you come here and you’re made so welcome from that very first minute...it’s such a special club.
“Managers and players come and go and the word legend gets bandied about and they are maybe justified, but to me Hugh Wade is a Coleraine legend and I don’t think that’s ever been said before about a chairman.
“You don’t buy respect in the game, you earn it and Hugh has earned make respect more than anyone else.”
“Hugh Wade is synonymous with Coleraine. I remember the Saturday morning he led an entourage to my house to appraoch me about becoming manager.
“The club always came first with Hugh. He was very logical about everything we did. He is a very wise man who couldn’t have done enough for me, especially in those early days at the club.”
“I’ve been involved in football for a long time, but for someone to be involved not only in football for 40 years but also at one club is amazing. I’ve always had the utmost respect for Hugh and I think the turnout here tonight shows how highly regarded he is.